Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - Wednesday's Woman of The Week!

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, was and African American lecturer, author, poet, and suffragist. Her antislavery verse, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854), sold thousands of copies and  “The Two Offers”(1859) was the first short story published by an African American. Touring Southern Freedmen’s communities, she lectured on education and morality as racial uplift, and denounced white racial violence. Her suffrage work was long-standing. In the split among suffragists over the 15th Amendment, Harper favored voting rights for Black men; she affiliated with the American Woman Suffrage Association, and delivered speeches at its conventions.

Image result for Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Born in Baltimore of free Black parents, she was orphaned before she was 3. Reared by an uncle, whose school for free Blacks she attended, Harper was first a teacher, then a lecturer for the Maine Anti-Slavery Society. She married Fenton Harper in 1860, but was widowed within 4 years and returned to lecturing. Her Southern travels resulted in several narrative poems. She became head of the African American department of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She helped organize the National Association. of Colored Women’s Clubs and became vice-president. She died in Philadelphia at 85.

Learn more about Frances Ellen Watkins Harper at the National Women's History Museum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nannie Helen Burroughs - Wednesday's Woman of the Week!

Nannie Helen Burroughs, founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D. C. in 1909. The school served as a national model school for the teaching of African American women. Burroughs believed that education, job training, and voting rights were the tools for Black women’s empowerment. In 1915 she wrote an article in the Crisis, in the official magazine of the NAACP, demanding the ballot as a protection for African American women and the route to racial advancement.

Nannie Helen Burroughs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-79903)

Before founding the National Training School for Women and Girls, Burroughs  graduated from high school with honors in 1896.  She worked in Louisville for the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention.  Burroughs formed women’s industrial clubs throughout the South teaching night classes in typing, stenography, bookkeeping, millinery, and home economics to Black women. Through her powerful oratory she became secretary of the National Baptist Woman’s Convention and, building on her teaching experience and grassroots network among Baptist women,. Under the motto, “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible,” her school blended industrial training and the liberal arts with a Christian education. She maintained her own publishing house, trained women missionaries, and educated African American women to be self-sufficient wage earners. She was a power player among both Black and white women.  She died in Washington in 1961; her school continues today.

Read more on Nannie Helen Burroughs at the National Women's History Museum Website

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mary Eliza Church Terrell - Wednesday's Woman of the Week!

Mary Eliza Church Terrell was an African American suffragist who fought not only for women's voting rights but also for United States citizenship for African Americans. Terrell was active all over the country and lectured on the importance of African American women voting. She felt voting was essential for African Americans to gain equality.

Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-54722)
Later Terrell would go on to become president of the National Association of Colored Women. She campaigned tirelessly among black organizations and mainstream white organizations for black women’s suffrage. She even picketed the Wilson White House with members of the National Woman’s Party in her zeal for woman suffrage. 

Following the passage of the nineteenth amendment, Terrell turned her attention to civil rights. In 1948, Terrell became the first black member of the National Association of University Women. In 1950 she worked to desegregate the John R. Thompson Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and her effort came to fruition with a 1953 Supreme Court decision banning discrimination in public places in the District of Columbia. Terrell fought for woman suffrage and civil rights because she realized that she belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race.” She lectured, organized, and battled to better the lives of African American women throughout her life.

For more on Mary Eliza Church Terrell visit The National Women's History Museum

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sojourner Truth - Wednesday's Woman of the Week!

February is Black History Month; what a fantastic opportunity for the League to highlight some truly revolutionary African American Suffragists!

Sojourner Truth, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-119343)

Although white women were able to vote freely after 1920, most African American women still faced great adversity when they tried to cast their ballot at the polls. These women were often intimidated by poll workers, threatened by other voters, and sometimes even viciously attacked. African American women fought side by side with white women for the right to vote and for equality among men.

Today we highlight Sojourner Truth. Truth was an activist and preacher.  Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Before she fought for the right to vote she was extremely active in the abolition movement. After the Civil War Sojourner fought to see that African American men who served in the war were awarded land in the west. 
Sojourner truth c1870.jpg
An albumen silver print from approximately 1870 by Randall Studios
Truth is best known for her speech she delivered in 1815 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title "Ain't I a Woman?"

For more on Sojourner Truth visit The National Women's History Museum here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Looking Forward but Always Remembering the Past

The League of Women Voters of New York State was founded in 1919 by a group of highly opinionated, politically engaged, fiercely dynamic, women. The League was created after women won the right to vote in New York State in 1917. We were the first ever League and one of our founding mothers was none other than Carrie Chapman Catt, an iconic suffragette who started off as an Iowa school teacher but quickly became one of the most instrumental women during the suffrage movement.
Our mission was, and continues to be, to educate and inform voters and to encourage them to vote – regardless of party affiliation. We are dedicated to ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballot without undue burden. We hold our elected officials responsible for their actions and regularly conduct candidate debates before elections. The League advocates for laws that ensure equal protection for all individuals, quality education, environmental protections, and access to adequate health care. We have fought these battles for nearly 100 years and we will continue to fight as we enter our next chapter.
2017 will be a momentous year for the League. Although we are excited about the future, there is still work to be done. We enter our 98th year concerned over the state of our state and of our nation. Our founding mothers fought for us to have the right to vote. They fought to ensure that all women had the right to make decisions about their own bodies. They fought for equality for all people regardless of race or religion. And most importantly, they fought for our democracy.
We kicked off our 100th year by making our voices heard all over New York State and in Washington. We marched in New York City, Albany, Glens Falls, Seneca Falls, Sag Harbor, Hudson, Ithaca, Utica, Rochester, and Syracuse. We marched through the streets carrying signs and chanting our battle cries.  We will not let a new administration set us back 100 years. We will fight, just as we did before, and we will win.